Norfolk WI: We’re all bitterly disappointed there will be no Norfolk Show this year

WI ladies spreading the love at last year's Royal Norfolk show

WI ladies spreading the love at last year's Royal Norfolk show - Credit: Archant

Carol Makins, Norfolk WI vice-chairman says the federation are sad there’ll be a huge hole in their social calendar this summer

Maggie Gallop, right, chatting with the WI's other vice chairman, Carol Makins at the Royal Norfolk

Maggie Gallop, right, chatting with the WI's other vice chairman, Carol Makins at the Royal Norfolk Show - Credit: Archant

When I receive my new WI diary, my first task is to enter the dates of special events for the forthcoming year.

One treasured event held annually is the Royal Norfolk Show. To us at the Norfolk Federation of WIs, it is a very significant date on the calendar. This is the county’s largest event and attracts thousands of people from around the local area so we are proud to have been involved with this show over the last 100 years.

For many years the WI marquee was situated adjacent to the livestock area, which proved to be very convenient for the farming community, thirsty for their early morning cuppa! With Norfolk, being mostly a rural county, it was not surprising that many of our members were involved with farming activities, from assisting outside on the land to cooking, baking, and preserving foods from their farmhouse kitchens.

We still hold on to our farming roots, and the well-being and satisfaction we get from growing our own fresh fruit and vegetables. Meanwhile, our interests have expanded to include digital technology and more modern approaches to craft and design.

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In 2017 the showground management team, in discussion with the WI, decided to relocate our marquee to the Discovery Zone and Countryside Area, thereby recognising WI diversity and knowledge which has progressed over the years. We are now quite settled in our new position, and while we may not be quite so convenient for an early morning cuppa, the livestock carers still ensure that they seek us out during the day.

Earlier in the year, I took over the responsibility of heading Royal Norfolk Show sub-committee, whose role is to plan, organise and manage the WI at the show. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the organisation to be able to catch up with visiting WI members and reach out to the wider public while promoting the various activities and interests that the WI has to offer. “The People’s Choice” involves visitors to the marquee when they help us judge the two competitions on display: one created by participating WIs and the other by individual members. These displays attract a great deal of attention, providing the perfect showcase for presenting the many talents of our members, and are worthy of the lovely comments made by our visitors.

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Over the past years, many new friendships have been formed whilst making mountains of sandwiches and pouring endless cups of tea! Although a tiring job, many people return the following year to meet up again. This friendship is the beating heart of the organisation, which attracts many new members. The Royal Norfolk Show Marquee, offers the perfect setting for this, whether it is to reminisce over past events or simply to relax and chat with friends and family over that well-earned cup of tea. Almost every visitor also takes the opportunity to enjoy a home-made cake from the seriously delicious selection on offer, made and served by our diligent team of members.

So of course it was very disappointing for all concerned when due to the vicious coronavirus that has engulfed our lives over the last few months, the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association took the difficult decision to cancel the show for 2020. This traditional annual event has only been cancelled twice since the end of World War II. It was the right decision for the safety of us all.

So the boxes packed with catering equipment and all showground necessities will remain stored in the attic at Federation House for this year. Our carefully made plans for this summer we will now move forward to 2021 and hopefully, with the resilience of our WI members, together we can gradually resume our enjoyment of this treasured tradition we once took for granted. And I know what is the first thing that I shall write in my 2021 diary!

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